MP’s Death Highlights ‘Dismal’ PNG Hospital Conditions

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MP’s Death Highlights ‘Dismal’ PNG Hospital Conditions Schulze’s allegedly death due to lack of medical equipment

By Jeffrey Elapa

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, March 20, 2013) – The dismal state of health facilities in Papua New Guinea was once again in the spotlight as parliament paid tribute to the late Angoram MP Ludwig Schulze yesterday.

Schulze, who died last week, had fallen victim to the lack of (the latest) lifesaving equipment in the country’s hospitals, several MPs said yesterday.

The late Kundiawa-Gembogl MP, Joe Mek Teine, who died in 2011, was also described as another victim of the deteriorating health services and facilities in the country.

Opposition leader Belden Namah, who extended his sympathy and condolences to the people of Angoram over the death Schulze, said it was sad to see people dying because of a lack of life-saving equipment in hospitals.

But, at the same time, private hospitals in the country were demanding payment before conducting medical procedures, he added.

Namah said he was concerned that successive governments had denied the people the right to better health facilities.

He added that the government and the parliamentary service had, for too long, denied better insurance and medical cover for all MPs.

Namah also raised concerns that the Pacific International Hospital (PIH) in Port Moresby had been denying emergency health care and operation until after fees were paid, a charge the hospital denied.

Namah said he had learnt that Schulze had been sent to the PIH on March 8 for treatment but the hospital wanted outstanding hospital fees of K19,000 [US$8,955] to be paid before they could operate on him.

He said he and his deputy, Sam Basil, were about to go to the hospital to pay the bill when he learned Schulze had died.

Namah said Teine was also a victim of the hospital’s "cash first and life later" policy.

PIH chief executive officer Dr. Ramanand Patnaik told The National that the hospital had never denied treatment for Schulze.

He said the member was looked after well but neither PIH nor Port Moresby General Hospital had the facilities for a complicated heart operation such as the one Schulze needed.

Patnaik said Schulze was to be transferred to Brisbane, Australia, for treatment but his condition got worse and he died before he could be flown there.

He added the hospital was looking at reviewing the hospital’s protocols, among them the fees’ issues raised by many people.

Public Service Minister Sir Puka Temu, who is also a medical doctor by profession, said it was a concern that the national health system in the country did not deliver the services.

He said many people had lost their loved ones to sicknesses that could be treated.

"It is always a fear that there is no life-saving equipment in the country if I had a heart attack or any other sickness that needed treatment and operation," he said.

Sir Puka called on lawmakers and the government to look seriously into improving the national health system.

Those who paid their tributes in the parliament chamber yesterday, apart from Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his deputy Leo Dion, were Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma, Minister for Environment and Conservation John Pundari, Minister for Public Enterprises Ben Micah, Commerce, Trade and Industry Minister Richard Maru and Minister of Treasury Don Polye.

As a sign of respect, the PNG and all 22 provincial flags were at half mast.

Schulze’s casket was taken to the St Joseph Catholic church at East Boroko for the funeral service.

It leaves for Wewak today where it would be taken to Angoram to be laid to rest.

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